The Unfair Affair: Part 2

The Aftermath
By: Kirsten Fowler

 Part 2 of the series “The Unfair Affair.” In Part 1 I discussed the risk factors that may contribute to an affair to better understand the question many have of “Why did this happen?” In Part 2 I will discuss the aftermath, or what to do after the affair.

Are My Feelings Normal?

If you just recently learned about your partner’s affair, you will likely have many different emotions brewing. Here are some of the common feelings, as stated in the book by Douglas K. Snyder and his associates, “Getting Past the Affair”:

  • Angry/vengeful
  • Depressed and anxious
  • Fearful
  • Disoriented/shocked

These emotions are normal reactions to a traumatic event. In fact, many people who experience the trauma from an affair report to have symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). It may also be helpful to understand that as a victim of infidelity you may go through what scholars call, the Five Stages of Grief:

  1. Denial/shock.
  2. Anger.
  3. Bargaining (if only I….).
  4. Depression
  5. Acceptance (Not accepting the affair but being able to move forward in peace).

Keep in mind that you won’t necessarily go through the stages in order and you might even go back to a stage several times.

If you are the offending partner, it is important to accept and try to understand some of the emotions your partner may be feeling right now. It will also be beneficial for you to realize some of the normal emotions you may cycle through.  These emotions include feelings of depression, confusion, guilt, doubt, and helplessness.  Expressing the emotions to your spouse may be beneficial, but this can be difficult after such a significant event.  Using a resource such as a licensed marriage counselor can help you better understand your spouse’s emotions and express yours.

I Have So Many Questions…Where Do I Start?

Although it is painful, there are some questions that need to be asked once an affair is uncovered. The following is a list of important questions that the victimized partner should consider asking:

  • Who? Knowing whether the outside affair partner is a close friend, co-worker, or a stranger met on the Internet will have a great impact on where to go from here. You should also know if there were multiple affair partners.
  • What? It can be difficult, but you need to know what happened during the affair. This primarily means, was it sexual or emotional? Understanding this is key, but this does not mean that you need to know every detail, which can actually slow the healing process.
  • Where? It can be helpful to know where meetings and get-togethers took place. This may help avoid flashbacks (thinking of images of your partner and the outside affair partner) as well.
  • Why? This may be key in finding out what you can now do to prevent an affair in the future (if you decide to stay together).
  • How? Know how long the affair lasted, how many times sexual activity occurred, and how the affair came about. Again, no need for intimate details here.
  • Health Concerns? Did your partner have unprotected sex with the outside affair partner? Did the outside affair partner have STDs? You and your partner may want to be tested.
  • What’s the Current Status? Does your spouse want to try to mend the marriage?

Going through these questions with your partner enables healing, aids in understanding, and increases the likelihood of keeping the marriage intact. In addition to the above questions, there are other things that should be discussed in order to keep moving forward in your life:

  • The Other Person: You should know if the outside person knows that it is over. You should also talk to your spouse about the possibility of the outside affair person becoming a problem. The last thing you want are harmful threats over the phone, blackmail, or other such issues that come about from a jealous and angry outsider.
  • Physical Intimacy: It is important to decide what is comfortable and appropriate now. Will you sleep together? Will you continue in sexual intimacy? Maybe you will just take it slow by using gentle touches or holding hands. There is no right or wrong way, it just depends on you and your partner.
  • Daily life: Despite the hurt that may be going on inside you, there are still tasks of daily life that need to be done. Bills still have to be paid, laundry done, budgets made, and dry cleaning taken Decide if these things can be taken care of together or separately.

Why Should I Forgive?

Taking time to communicate with your partner and work through the questions listed above can help you in the forgiveness process. An affair is one of the most damaging events that can happen to a marriage, so although forgiveness will be difficult, it is extremely important. Whether or not you and your partner stay together, forgiveness must be there in order to fully heal and move forward.

In an article published for the Journal of Family Therapy entitled, “Facilitating Forgiveness in the Treatment of Infidelity: An Interpersonal Model,” you can gain great insight as to how this can take place and why it is important. The article focusses on four elements and expands upon them as follows:

  • Empathy: Learn non-defensive and empathic listening skills, increase in understanding, and change you perspective.
  • Humility: take responsibility for your actions, acknowledge damage done, and express sorrow for pain inflicted (primarily for offending partner).
  • Commitment: review past good memories, focus on closeness and connection, share goals and dreams.
  • Apology: ask for forgiveness, express sorrow, and, if you decide to stay together, pledge to be faithful and committed (primarily for offending partner).

Once these things have been addressed, you can now make an informed decision on how to move forward. In the next article, Part 3 of “The Unfair Affair,” I will take a look at how to make such a decision.


Research for this blog was primarily obtained from “Getting Past The Affair: A Program to help you cope, heal, and move on- together or apart,” by Douglas K. Snyder and associates, and “Not Just Friends: Rebuilding trust and Recovering Your Sanity After Infidelity,” by Shirley Glass. All other research based on peer-reviewed journal articles as stated or linked.